by Amy Tjaden News Editor


It really is a small world. I find it interesting to learn about homeschooling from the perspective of other countries. The interesting part is how similar their hurdles are to our own.


This morning I came across this article in The Independent. It is about unschooling, only in the UK they refer to it as autonomous education, autonomous meaning self-directed. The article is an opinion piece in which the author criticizes autonomous learning because, as he puts it, “Autonomous education is based on a simple principle: that children alone are the best judges of what they should learn and when they should learn it. If a child wishes to spend the day slumped in front of a television or games console, this is not a problem, the choice is his.”


Doesn’t this sound familiar? Doesn’t this sound like the criticism unschoolers face from ignorant people who have no idea what they’re talking about? Why is it so difficult to understand that children really are the best judges of what they should learn?


Children want to learn. The idea that they will sit around doing nothing is ridiculous. Sure, there will be days that they simply want to watch a movie or play video games. As adults, don’t we need a break from work? Isn’t that why our employers allow us to put in for days off?


When I first decided to back off on using curriculum and decided to try a more unschooling approach, I was worried. I was convinced the kids would do nothing remotely educational. But right away they were jumping into educational activities all on their own. My then 4-year old devoured all books we had on US geography and early US history. He did word puzzles for fun. He started playing around with the electronic keyboard so much we put him in piano lessons. He has played for almost three years now and has participated in three recitals. We might have missed this had we not let him explore his own interests.


My then 7-year old was the one I was worried about. I was sure he’d never leave his video games in favor of educational exploration. I was shocked to find him setting up his own science experiments, designing his own board games, creating floor plans for his dream house, journaling and most of all reading. He now loves to read and does it more than anything else in his free time.


I think the biggest misconception, which is apparent from Simon Webb’s opinion piece, is that unschoolers, or autonomously schooled children, are ignored by their parents and are completely left to facilitate their own education. This isn’t true. Parents are there to guide their children, answer questions, to provide an environment that promotes educational exploration.


The point in the article that I completely disagree with is Mr. Webb’s idea that, “Our children are most decidedly not the best judges of what is wholesome and good for them.” This is just not true. How sad that we have such little trust in children to make the right choices.


The best part of the article is all the reader comments below it. There you can read from many parents who have used an autonomous approach. Their comments better explain what the approach really means rather than Mr. Webb’s ignorant ideas.


Mr. Webb uses this fictional account of autonomous schooling he has created to explain why so many families in the UK are opposed to recent legislation that allows local authorities to check up on families who homeschool.


His implication is that homeschooling families have something to hide. Isn’t it more likely that families simply want the freedom to educate their children without being vilified?


Copyright 2009

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